In the realm of education advocacy, school discipline reform is a concept that comes up again and again. There is a general consensus that current punitive disciplinary measures are flawed and often contribute to long-lasting negative outcomes for the students on whom they are applied. On the other hand, it is acknowledged that schools still need ways to address student misbehavior. So, how do we support teachers and school administrators in the necessity of handling discipline issues while also ensuring that individual students are held accountable for their actions in ways that don’t hinder their academic and personal potential?
The answer is found in changing the underlying approach to discipline.
Exclusionary policies and practices are those that have negative consequences for the student such as suspensions, expulsions, and corporal punishment, or even loss of recess time or requiring students to stand in a corner or face the wall. These punitive practices are rooted in two beliefs: that the possibility of incurring negative consequences acts as a deterrent and that harsh consequences are an effective way to prevent escalation of misbehavior. There is, however, no conclusive evidence to show that this approach to discipline contributes to an improved school environment. On the contrary, research indicates that punitive disciplinary methods have a negative impact on student achievement outcomes and contribute to lower academic performance, lower graduation rates, and higher drop-out rates.
There must be a paradigm shift in school discipline — away from exclusionary policies based on punishment and compliance and toward restorative justice polices that nurture students and promote learning.
Read the next post in this series: From Punishment to Prevention